Thursday, February 03, 2011

Bluffing with Galileo . . .

(Image from Wikipedia)

In yesterday's post, I sang the virtues of careful empiricism and rigorous logic, values I claimed Galileo had learned from his father, Vincenzo, but Dario Rivarossa called my bluff:
relying on empiricism and rigorous logic

Maybe not that much. See Paul Feyerabend, Against Method.
Chased, chastened, and thereby more chaste, I acknowledged the overstatement:
Also, see Heilbron, further on in the biography. Galileo learned to appeal to empiricism and rigorous logic, and even use them, but he was often bluffing, which he learned from his love of gambling, and acting out in his intellectual battles the part of the proud and adventurous knight Orlando, whom he knew well from Ariosto, having memorized large sections of the poem.

Speaking of romantic heroes, I once danced with Feyerabend's inamorata and had her smiling . . .
Of course, she was also laughing at me as she smiled. But let that be. Today, I want to back up my admission on Galileo's 'more-than-rigorous' empirical rationality:
A calculation by Galileo of the relative frequencies of specific throws with three dice has survived. Its main operative result is that 10 turns up more frequently than 9 once in 108 throws. Only a frequent player could hope to use this information to advantage. As a good gambler Galileo occasionally bluffed by raising the stakes on a losing hand -- a technique he later identified with the propensity of his philosophical opponents to add reckless worthless arguments to bad ones. The criticism better applied to him. His later claims about experimental results and theoretical insights contained a quantity of bluff. (John L. Heilbron, Galileo, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010, page 24)
Unfortunately, both Galileo and I got caught bluffing, and we've both now faced our separate Italian inquisitions.

But I'm not currently under house arrest. My wife and I today went out to explore her childhood neighborhood here in Daegu and took an opportunity to peer through the cracks in a gate to see the house where she lived until she began high school. We head tomorrow for Busan, which might put me offline until Sunday, but we'll see what transpires. I might manage to locate an internet connection . . .

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At 4:39 AM, Anonymous dhr said...

ahem, cough cough, your Italian too is a half bluff: the word should be spelled "iNNamorata"; anyway it is seldom used, the term usually employed being "fidanzata" = girlfriend... or his lover was meant? in that case, she was his "amante".


At 8:03 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

In English, we spell it "inamorata," and I was borrowing from Heilbron's biography of Galileo -- and trying to sound archaic -- but thanks for the Italian lesson. I'm happy to add another "n" and use the Italian . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:33 PM, Anonymous dhr said...

Ah, okay, thanks -- and excuse me.

So, it's like with Milton's "Penseroso", which sometimes is commented on as a wrong spelling, instead of "pensieroso". But he was simply referring to how the word was pronounced in southern Italy in the 17th century.

At 6:42 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I learned the word from Sir Heilbron despite my having had an Italian innamorata back in the mid-1980s . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:09 PM, Anonymous dhr said...

my having had an Italian innamorata back in the mid-1980s

Me, too.
Looks like it didn't work, in both cases :-)

At 7:57 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

It worked well until it stopped working . . .

She's a good person, though, and also a good scholar.

Jeffery Hodges

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